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Golden Lotus

Travel Outside US, re-enter on approved EAD but without EAD card

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Hi guys,

I figured out that quite few people have the same problem "re-enter on approved EAD but without the actual card" as I did. I used to do tons of research on this topic prior to my travel to seek a definte answer, but could not find a single one, that's why I decided to post my full experience from the day I applied for OPT, throughout the whole application process, traveling outside US, re-entering, and getting detained at US border.

On September 21, 2015 (the day OPT application opened), I attended an OPT workshop (requirement at my school). On September 25: my international advisor did an online application, checked all my supporting documents, then I went to UPS store to mail these documents to USCIS Dallas Office. (The advisor told me to put school international office address as the mailing address for safety).

During this visit, I also asked the advisor whether it was safe for me to travel outside US. They said that it should be okay - The office should receive my card in December and mail it to my overseas address right away before my employment start date (I already have a job offer lined up)

On September 30. I received a receipt from USCIS that they have received my application on Sept 25.

On December 7, I took flight to my home country (partly cuz the advisor's assurance, partly due to family circumstance).

I waited and waited until Dec 18 and my USCIS case status had not changed at all (still just received). So I called the international office, the advisor told me that it was really unfortunate that my case had not been processed since the 90 days deadline came pretty close. And that they must receive my card before December 23 in order to mail the card to me in time before my flight . Otherwise, We would have to wait til Jan 4 (the office closed for holiday from Dec 24 to Jan 3) for them to mail the card to me - and Jan 8-10 for the card to be in my hands (but that meant I would be late for my employment start date, and miss my flight on Jan 2). I immediately called USCIS to request a change in mailing address to my friend's apartment so that if it arrives during the break, my friend can mail it to me. But USCIS representative told me that request like this would take 15 - 30 days to process. Anyways, I took the risk and ask for a change.

I spent the next few days hoping that the card would be processed ASAP and arrive at the office before Dec 23, but No, that wasnt the case. They waited until Dec 24 to approve my application. And even though they said that they have mailed the card, I havent received the actual card yet, the only thing I received was a notice of approval in my friend's mailbox on Dec 29. He took the notice to Fedex in order to mail it to me but the FedEx people said the earliest date it could arrive at my address is Jan 5. So Instead of mailing it out, he just scanned the document and emailed a pdf version of the approval to me.

At this point, I really didnt know what to do. People advised me to stay at home and waited until the actual card to arrive, but I dont want to waste money paid for Jan 2 flight and certainly do not want to pay for a new ticket. Moreover, I need to arrive early to do some moving and preparation ahead of my start date... So I decided take the risk of being denied at port of entry.

On Jan 2, I took the flight to Houston TX. When I arrived, I did not pass the first border check, and was detained into a small room with some other people. Waited in the room for about 15-20 mins (oh and Please if you're in this situation, dont use phone or any electronic device - otherwise you will just upset the officers), then an officer called my name and asked me a series of questions relating to my study, my work, my reason for travels, why didnt you renew your visa (visa expires on Jan 11). After like 20 minutes or so, he stamped my passport and I was allowed to enter the US. Here are the documents I used in order from top to bottom: (1) passport, (2) I-20, (3) employment contract, (4) email from employer that stated employment start date, (5) USCIS receipt of application acceptance email, (6) a scanned copy of USCIS approval notice, and (7) Latest I-94.

My answers to some questions asked by officers:

1. When your program ended? - graduation date

2. When will you start working? - starting date

3. For which firm? - the name of your employers, a brief description of the compang, your position, and its relation with your prior study

4. When did you last leave the US? Tell them the truth, and reasons for leaving (my case, mom got into a motor accident).

5. Can you provide me with original copy of approval notice? I can't cuz friend could not mail it on time.

6. Why dont you have EAD card? Just tell them your situation

7. What do you plan to do after OPT over? I told them that my firm is gonna sponsor me for H1B visa.

8. Do you bring any food or money... With you? I don't bring any food or liquid with me, but I do have with me 3500 in cash, and some other valuables. Total value should be around $5000

9. Why didnt yoh renew your F-1 visa since your visa was gonna expire soon (on Jan 11)? - My advisor advised me not to renew my visa while at my home country if the visa duration still covers my travel date. If I did apply for a renewal, my current visa could be cancelled and I could fail to obtain a new one without an actual EAD card. So to be safe, she told me to just use this current visa for now. I can renew it in my later trip back home or simply wait for H1-B visa issued.

Edited by Golden Lotus

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Hi, I am in the same situation, I am going back home in few days and my OPT application has not been approved yet. It is very likely it will approve before I get back in Feb, I do not want to risk the overseas mailing during Spring Festival, so I just wondered how important EAD is for re-entry.

I have valid VISA, offer letter, receipt.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

 

 

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23 hours ago, Jessica2017 said:

Hi, I am in the same situation, I am going back home in few days and my OPT application has not been approved yet. It is very likely it will approve before I get back in Feb, I do not want to risk the overseas mailing during Spring Festival, so I just wondered how important EAD is for re-entry.

I have valid VISA, offer letter, receipt.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

 

 

Hello Jessica,

It is very important. When did you apply for your OPT? If you only recently applied for OPT (two months or less), I don't think that it is wise to travel outside the US. I applied to OPT as soon as application window opened, and had to wait for more than 90 days to receive the approval notice (not the EAD card). I was lucky that right before my flight, my friend checked my mailbox in US and found the approval notice, took a copy and sent it to me.

Anyhow, I don't think that valid visa, offer letter or receipt matter. What matters is whether your OPT has been approved. If you can show them that your OPT has been approved (screenshot of approval notice on Immigration website), or a soft copy of OPT approval notice), then it should be fine. However, let say, if at the time of your arrival in the US, your OPT is still not approved, I am pretty sure that you can't get in. 

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Thanks for sharing. I decided to share my story too because I think that the whole Opt thing is blown out of proportion.

I traveled while waiting for the EAD and I also had a job offer. While outside the US, the international advisor kept stating that it is better to wait until approved before entering the US. I didn't trust his knowledge because of past experience with him. I was approved fir the EAD and received notice that it was mailed to the ISS office while I was outside the US.

 

I decided to check the rules for re-entry on USCIS WEBSITE. I found out as expected that they don't require a job offer nor the EAD card for re-entry. Rather the ISS office scares students off because of all other reasons that has little to do with reality.

I have received the card on the same day and hour I arrived the airport in the US. However, at the entry I was not asked any questions, nor I was asked to present any documents whatsoever other than the passport and I-20. The whole process and stamping took maybe 20 seconds. My point is don't rely on the advisors a small a source of knowledge, you can do your own diligence. Please note that I've completed my PhD degree and had a faculty job offer. At the airport they didn't even ask me about any of that. Good luck.

 

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On 2/6/2018 at 2:03 AM, Waiting9999 said:

Thanks for sharing. I decided to share my story too because I think that the whole Opt thing is blown out of proportion.

I traveled while waiting for the EAD and I also had a job offer. While outside the US, the international advisor kept stating that it is better to wait until approved before entering the US. I didn't trust his knowledge because of past experience with him. I was approved fir the EAD and received notice that it was mailed to the ISS office while I was outside the US.

 

I decided to check the rules for re-entry on USCIS WEBSITE. I found out as expected that they don't require a job offer nor the EAD card for re-entry. Rather the ISS office scares students off because of all other reasons that has little to do with reality.

I have received the card on the same day and hour I arrived the airport in the US. However, at the entry I was not asked any questions, nor I was asked to present any documents whatsoever other than the passport and I-20. The whole process and stamping took maybe 20 seconds. My point is don't rely on the advisors a small a source of knowledge, you can do your own diligence. Please note that I've completed my PhD degree and had a faculty job offer. At the airport they didn't even ask me about any of that. Good luck.

 

Hey, I tried to find check USCIS but couldn't find the information regarding the re-entry.

It would be really helpful if you could post the link to it.

 

Thanks a lot.

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Old thread is now closed to further comment.


06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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